The Political Economy of the Broadcast Satellite Service: The Development of the BSS and Its Implications in Taiwan


Ping-Hung Chen


In the United States, the Broadcast Satellite Service (BSS), commonly known as the Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), has become a solid competitor with the cable television industry since DirecTV launched its service in 1994. Less than three years later, at the end of 1996, five U.S. BSS companies acquired 4.3 million subscribers, and approximately fifty percent of them converted from cable television systems. Undeniably the competition between these two services will intensify in the near future.

Following the trend, the telecommunications industry optimistically anticipate that the BSS may be available in Taiwan soon. In addition to analyzing the development of the BSS industry, therefore, one of the main purposes of this study is to investigate its future impacts on Taiwan. Theoretically, this study employs the political economy of communications, examining the BSS industry through the perspectives of capitalism, media imperialism, and state influence. First, the study briefly introduces the emergence of BSS and its current development around the world, especially in the U.S. Then, the study analyzes the BSS industry in the U.S., including its market structure, its big players, ownership concentration, and the competition between cable television and BSS. Finally, the study discusses some restrictions and implications for the development of BSS in Taiwan.